Aurora mayor wants to tackle homelessness with camping ban
Aurora is wading into a debate on a homeless camping ban — one that has plagued Denver for years — and critics say it's a political ploy.
Driving the news: Mayor Mike Coffman plans to push forward an ordinance Thursday that would ban unsanctioned homeless camps in the third largest city in the state.
- The Republican former congressman was widely criticized earlier this year after he spent a week sleeping in homeless encampments and declared them a "lifestyle choice" and a "product of a drug culture."
Why it matters: Denver has tried this strategy with little success. The city passed an urban camping ban in 2012, yet the rule has been the subject of litigation ever since and failed to curb homelessness or halt tent cities from cropping up along sidewalks throughout the city.
- Meanwhile, a Denver Post investigation found encampment sweeps cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Now, Denver leaders are investing in new homeless resolution strategies altogether, including sanctioned campsites and underutilized hotels.
What they're saying: "People don't like having these encampments right next to their neighborhoods, and they have a right not to have them there," Coffman told Axios.
- "What we want to do is have designated places for them to go," including sanctioned campsites, he said.
- The mayor declined to answer questions about how his proposed ban would compare to the one in Denver and hung up the phone in the middle of the interview.
Between the lines: The Aurora municipal elections are coming up in November, races that council members tell Axios are fueling Coffman's homelessness policy "stunts."
- "This is him trying to build a narrative to help his hand-picked candidates that are getting institutional Republican money in the upcoming election. It's all politics, and it's low," said council member Juan Marcano, a Democratic socialist.
Yes, but: Coffman will need the support of at least five Aurora council members to pass the proposal. And multiple members say the votes won't be easy to secure.
- Council members also are in the process of receiving community feedback about homeless policy solutions, a conversation they say is being ignored by Coffman, only further fueling their frustrations.
The other side: Homeless advocates argue camping bans criminalize homelessness and disproportionately impact people of color.
- "The mayor has dug in on the idea that homelessness is a choice, and this is his way to punish people who he believes have made that choice when that's simply not the case," said Cathy Alderman, head of public policy at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
The big picture: More than 1,500 people are estimated to be living without shelter in the Denver metro area, according to the latest data available.
What's next: Coffman is finalizing the proposal with the city attorney and intends to introduce the measure Thursday, he tweeted Monday.
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